Dangerous precedents

Dangerous precedents

New Jersey lawmakers are weighing a measure that would bar state pension funds from including companies that participate in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel. (“NJ lawmakers weigh anti-BDS legislation,” June 25)

U.S. law already protects Israel against boycotts started by foreign governments. The Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976 were enacted to  protect Israel from the Arab League boycott against it. An Illinois law extends this protection “to encompass any boycotts against Israel, whether initiated by governments or civil society.”

The real effect of these new measures is that they treat the settlements as if they were part of Israel. An Illinois anti-BDS law targets companies that participate in boycotts against the State of Israel “or in territories controlled by the State of Israel.” On June 19, the House of Representatives passed a trade bill which also included an amendment which monitors boycotts of businesses “operating or doing business in Israel, with Israeli entities, or in Israeli-controlled territories” (italics added.) For the first time ever in United States law, the legislation treats the settlements as a part of Israel. (The New Jersey bill specifies “any company that boycotts the goods, products or businesses of Israel,” but does not distinguish between companies operating in Israel and the occupied territories.)

At no time has the United States ever implied any recognition of Israeli sovereignty over any territory it occupied in 1967. Even Israel’s annexations of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem have never  been recognized by the United States.

These “anti-BDS bills” are defining Israel to include territories controlled by Israel. By defining the territories controlled by Israel as Israel, they are saying that Israel includes the territories. I find this  troubling. By adding provisions that relate to opposing boycotts for the occupied territories, these states are making foreign policy, which is delegated by the Constitution to the Federal government.

I can’t imagine anything we can do that’s more important than solving the two-state issue. It is worthwhile for the United States to have a general principle of treating the settlements as the illegitimate, illegal, immoral, and anti-peace enterprise that they are. To solve this, we must dream, decide, and do.

Phyllis Bernstein

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